The animals that provide you with their products are most likely from smaller and/or local farms, and it is probably the case that the animals are being slaughtered in small-scale plants that are considered to be out of the industrial paradigm. Customers frequenting farmers’ markets are introduced to where their meat is coming from, and the farmers themselves are often present at the markets to sell what they have produced. Although consumers are well educated about the humane treatment that these animals have had on these farms, what happens to these animals after they leave the farm to be slaughtered remains obscure to consumers.
All too often it is thought that smaller (local farming) is better for the animals and that industrial (factory farming) is worse for the animals. But it is not the case that “small” is necessarily better and that “large” is necessarily worse when it comes to slaughter plants. Larger slaughterhouses are more financially stable and better equipped to train employees about the specifications of humane slaughter. While small slaughterhouses are under the same humane slaughter regulations as larger slaughterhouses, their challenges are greater in regard to both economic viability and employee training. What all slaughterhouses (large, small, and in between) have in common is that the USDA inspectors who have oversight over humane handling need better training and guidelines of enforcement.
To learn more about this issue, the following resources are recommended:
Friedrich, Bruce. “USDA needs to take steps to stop abuse of animals,” Star Tribune, 25 April 2014, link to article.
Jones, Dena. “Crimes without Consequences: The Enforcement of Humane Slaughter Laws in the United States,” Animal Welfare Institute, 2008, link to PDF.